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- rousing speech for Repeal, September 1843
- Gansevoort Melville at Washington Hall
- another Repeal speech by Gansevoort Melville
- Aye my men, that is the talk
Gansevoort Melville's efforts in support of Daniel O'Connell and his movement to repeal the Act of Union with Great Britain actually began in May 1842, the year before the "Repeal Year." On May 23, 1842, Gansevoort spoke before a Monday-evening meeting of the "Young Men's Repeal Association," held at Washington Hall, corner of Broadway and Reade Street in New York City.
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Gansevoort Melville, Esq. then came forward and addressed the meeting. He made a very happy speech, and was loudly cheered throughout. He related several anecdotes, one of the celebrated John Philpot Curran, who, on being near the Post-office, soon after the vote of the Irish Parliament that betrayed the country into the hands of England, was spoken to by an Irish lord, who had lent a helping hand to the dishonor, as follows:-- "What, Mr. Curran," said his lordship, "do they intend to do with that old house, (pointing to the Parliament House on College green)--for my part, I can't bear to look at it!" "You are in the right, my lord," replied the caustic wit, "for I never yet knew a murderer who was not afraid of a ghost" (cheers.) --Freeman's Journal, 4 June 1843On December 30, 1842, Gansevoort spoke before the "Great Repeal Meeting" held at the Tabernacle (on Broadway at Fourth Street), following remarks by the meeting's organizer, Charles O'Conor.
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GANSEVOORT MELVILLE, Esq., an American gentleman was next introduced to the meeting.Gansevoort Melville made another speech during the first week of June 1843, dubbed "Repeal Week." Meetings during "Repeal Week" took place at Washington Hall, where Gansevoort spoke on Tuesday, June 6, 1843.
An engine, formerly without influence, has in modern times gained its just force, and now begins to be felt even by despots. Public opinion, the judgment of the intelligent and educated portion of mankind, is now, even in Britain of mighty force. The government with all its gold to corrupt, and its steel to subdue, still finds in public opinion a foe which threatens its existence, and paralyses half its powers, and will for the working of iniquity. I say this to the honor of Englishmen, for the enlightened and educated Briton is not less honest than the enlightened and educated of other nations. We live in an age of light and improvement. The tree of liberty has produced this fruit;--that tree beneath whose broad branches we all sit down in peace, in safety, in the enjoyment of every blessing allowed to man here below. Its young roots were fertilized by the blood of the French, the Polish, and the Irish patriot. It is making grateful return to their native climes. It is fostering those principles which require but a small capital to begin and they inevitably spread (applause.) Here, in this home of mental as well as physical freedom, where relieved from the necessity of watching the encroachments of any domestic tyrant, we may safely employ the sympathies of a noble nature in procuring similar blessings for less favored nations; here let us friends of Ireland plant the Auxiliary standard of Repeal, let us unite public opinion, let us generously contribute the sinews of war--and believe me it scarcely enters into the heart of the most sanguine to conceive how much may be accomplished for Ireland. (Great cheering.)
The United States of America is the only free nation; to us all eyes are turned. 'Tis we who guide public opinion. The old world may hesitate, doubt, may disbelieve; but it cannot counteract, and at last sullenly follows, our lead. Set this engine properly at work for Ireland, and O'Connell will do the rest. By uniting the confidence of all Ireland he achieved religious liberty; give him as an auxiliary the vast moral force of your co-operation and political emancipation is the sure result. If there was not one drop of Irish blood in this assemblage, gratitude and justice would demand our co-operation in the good cause. America owes at least her voice and the aid of her purse to Ireland; for Irish blood shed in our defence has dyed our whole frontier. (Applause.)
Let us then dissolve the sections and form the phalanx; let it be done to-night. He who loves truth and justice, especially if the warm blood of Erin courses through his veins, never stop upon the threshold of action to count the cost. Persuade his heart or convince his judgment and the battle is won if he be truly Irish. (Cheers.)
If any personal dissensions have existed, we will bury them at once. Let us have no one hereafter complaining that he has suffered wrong; if there be one who has any grievances let him endure them in silence. (Vehement cheers.) Let him bear them, if he will, for the good of the cause, and the friends of the cause will do him justice. I am therefore for an union for Ireland. We will lay its corner stone to-night; by our next meeting its whole basis will be formed and time will mature a glorious superstructure. We will invite our brethren throughout the country to unite with us, and if these counsels prevail, effects more extensive than any hitherto ever attempted, will be brought about.
We can procure the co-operation of friends of Ireland to a prodigious extent. There is Irish blood or sympathy for Ireland in almost every village in America; and whereever two or three can be found to sustain each other, they will unite at our call in the name of Liberty and Old Ireland. (Loud cheers.) They will give their aid and countenance. I would also suggest a general convention of delegates, or proxies from the society once a year steadily henceforward until the Union is repealed. If our first convention meets at Boston, the next year here, and so on southward--beginning at Boston, the cradle of American liberty; believe me, Ireland will be emancipated from colonial vassalage before a Convention shall have sat at New-Orleans, the field where British power was stricken down by the son of an Irish exile. (Tremendous cheering.)
He said--that he came there as one who took a deep interest in the success of that cause, which had brought them together united as one man. He was aware that the enemies of Repeal ask one continuous question, "What right have Americans to interfere in the concerns of a foreign and friendly power." This was the question and he was determined to give it an answer publicly (cheers.) An American citizen being a freeman has a right to do whatever he pleases, provided it is not wrong (cheers and laughter,) and until they can prove it to be wrong to extend our sympathies to the oppressed of all nations, they must admit our right to give all the assistance in our power to unhappy Ireland, which is in the grasp of the same tyrant from whom they had providentially escaped (loud cheers.) When we cast our eyes over the wide waste of waters, we behold a country whose climate is the most salubrious, and the fertility of whose soil has gained for her the name of "Green Erin." So far it is the work of God; but when we come to see what man has done for her, we recoil from the spectacle with horror. We find nine millions of a proverbially contented people in a state of ferment bordering upon distraction. A French writer of some eminence in describing the people of the united kingdoms of Great Britain says--that the English, fat, smooth, and well clothed, will quarrel about the manner in which their muffins are toasted; the Scotch will fret about their road to another world if they have nothing else to fret about, but the Irish were satisfied if they had enough of the poorest fare and that the cold winds of winter did not find too many ways of entrance through their worn garments. If this character be anything bordering upon the reality, what sort of evils must oppress them when they are all discontented (hear, hear.) We will assist them to shake off these evils, and by our aid and encouragement they will tame the British Lion, as we ourselves have done (cheers.) There are men who put on a stereotyped smile when asked to give their assistance in the cause of Ireland, and say in the mincing accents of a Broadway dandy, 'it is a bad job but we cannot help it.' (The speaker's tone and manner during this passage excited roars of laughter.)
Such men have no common sympathy with mankind and we should at once draw a line between us; nay, we should seek an earthquake to open the chasm between us, so that human ingenuity could not bring them among us again (cheers.) After assuring the meeting that the cause of Ireland had taken deep hold upon the minds of the American people from whom they would at all times receive sympathy and support, he retired amid loud and continued cheering. --Freeman's Journal, 7 January 1843.
"Long before the hour appointed for the meeting, every avenue to the Room was crowded, and in about half an hour after the meeting was organized, it was next to impossible to effect an entrance; a thing never before known in Washington Hall."The fullest account of Gansevoort Melville's Repeal speech at Washington Hall on Tuesday, June 6, 1843 appeared in the New-York Freeman's Journal and Catholic Register (June 10, 1843). Other versions such as the one reprinted in the Sydney Morning Chronicle on November 29, 1843 (transcribed in the earlier Melvilliana post on another Repeal Speech by Gansevoort Melville) did not mention, for instance, that Gansevoort quoted from The Vicar of Wakefield. For another instance, only the Freeman's Journal reported Gansevoort Melville's allusion to British occupation of the Hawaiian or Sandwich Islands:
"Paper proclamations will do very well among her tens of millions of East Indian slaves. They'll do to bully the Chinese--or to rob a defenceless king like him of the Sandwich Islands of his hereditary dominions. [A tremendous shout of indignation burst from the meeting at this allusion to the recent infamous violation of the rights of a simple and defenceless people.] They'll do to cow the weak--to deceive the credulous. They may do every where else--but thank God they will not do in Ireland"Gansevoort appealed to shared outrage in the U. S. over the actions of Lord George Paulet in effecting the "provisional cession" which lasted five months. Gansevoort's brother Herman Melville, who was just then living and working in Honolulu (and writing letters home--received, but now lost), would strongly defend Paulet in the Appendix to Typee. From the New York Freeman's Journal and Catholic Register of Saturday, June 10, 1843:
During a pause in the contributions, GANSEVOORT MELVILLE, Esq. Master in Chancery, addressed the meeting. The tumultuous welcome which hailed him when he rose having subsided, he commenced by alluding to the unanimity which now reigned among the repealers, old and young, of this great city. Glancing at the great Union meeting at the Tabernacle in December last at which the venerable Thomas O'Conor presided, and speaking of the O'Conors, father and son, in terms of well deserved praise, he drew a cheering augury from the stern and unalterable determination which now actuates the repealers of New York to bear their part in that sublime moral struggle which now attracts the gaze of the civilized world to Ireland. (Cheering.) Mr. M. proceeded to contrast, rapidly, the strong difference between the condition of the Repeal cause but 6 or 8 months ago, and its present glorious prospects--and after speaking of the late inspiring news from old Erin he referred to the contempt, abuse and ridicule which have been lavished upon all the prominent advocates of the cause, and especially upon its acknowledged leader, DANIEL O'CONNELL. (Loud cheering.) Here warming with the subject, he declared that the Irish Liberator heeded the calumnies which had been rained upon his devoted head no more than the stout traveller, intent upon reaching the end of his day's journey, does the hissing of so many geese or the cowardly yelpings ofOn Wednesday, June 14, 1843, Gansevoort Melville addressed the "Mass Meeting in the Park" sponsored by the United Irish Repeal Association of New York. Back then "the Park" meant City Hall Park.
"Mongrel, puppy, whelp and hound,(Laughter and cheers.) They hissed and howled and he persevered. He swerved not one moment from his line of duty, but strait as the arrow to its mark--as the eagle to his eyrie--as the soul of the saint to heaven--with virtuous resolve, concentrated energy and iron purpose he toiled and struggled on. He agitated--he agonized--and what is the result?
And cur of low degree."
Our limits forbid us to follow the speaker here as he traced step by step the forward progress of the Repealers--the union and harmony and indomitable energy that characterize their every effort--the hitherto contemptuous indifference with which the English government have regarded Irish affairs, and their present talk of coercion. Wellington, Stanley and Peel passed successively under the speaker's scathing review, and the malignity of their opposition was vividly portrayed. An illustrative anecdote followed, which was received with roars of laughter and shouts of approval, and Mr. Melville proceeded to examine the question how the government of England are to redeem their promise of putting down Repeal. The speaker concluded his powerful remarks very nearly in the following language:
"How are the Tory government in England to put down Repeal? Is it by corruption and bribery? The wealth of the Indies could not buy their leader. "The queen of England is too poor to buy him." (Continued cheering.) Is it by paper proclamations? The idea is too absurd to deserve serious confutation. Paper proclamations will do very well among her tens of millions of East Indian slaves. They'll do to bully the Chinese--or to rob a defenceless king like him of the Sandwich Islands of his hereditary dominions. [A tremendous shout of indignation burst from the meeting at this allusion to the recent infamous violation of the rights of a simple and defenceless people.] They'll do to cow the weak--to deceive the credulous. They may do every where else--but thank God they will not do in Ireland. [Tremendous cheering.] How then are the Repealers to be put down? How is their onward progress to be stayed? As we have seen it cannot be done by bribery, by proclamations and by bullying--but it can be done and done only by giving to the Repealers all they ask--the absolute repeal of the accursed legislative union between Great Britain and Ireland. It can be done by yielding with a grace while there is yet time to yield gracefully. It can be done by granting to Ireland, the justice--the naked justice--that she asks--but this the Tory Ministry and the House of Lords say they cannot think of doing. They never will consent to what they facetiously term "the dismemberment of the British Empire." They will not stoop so far, they will not do so strange a thing as to accord Justice. They will not condescend to conciliate --and as the Dublin Nation says,--"THEY CANNOT CRUSH." (Immense cheering.) What then will Sir Robert Peel do? He has but one other resource and that is force--and this he dare not try. As honest Tom Steele said on the Dublin Corn Exchange, "Sir Robert Peel talks of civil war--let him try it if he dare." (Terrific cheering, waving of hats, handkerchiefs, &c.) If force be not used--the Repealers must triumph. If force be used it will add but another and an apt illustration of the old adage
"Quos deus vult perdere prius dementat."Force!--Force! physical force! to put down a peaceful, sublime, moral, movement like this on the part of an arisen, awakened and united people for the recovery of their inherent and inalienable rights. The very heavens would cry out shame upon such conduct. But if England wills it--on her be the guilt. Let but one drop of Repealer's blood be shed by a British bayonet--and the accumulated and reiterated wrongs of seven hundred years will bring upon their authors a fitting, a self-induced and a righteous retribution.-- The volcano would burst--and the Saxon be swept from the face of the land. (Most vehement cheering.) The Repealers will rally under the standard of the green,--
"For the green--oh the green--is the color of the trueIf the Irish do rally, it will be because England forced them to do it. If England unsheaths her weapon to strike--the sword of Ireland must be drawn to defend. (Cheers.) Our ancestors here in America did not wait to be smitten. They saw the blow impending and in the language of a great orator, "Our forefathers went to war against a preamble. They drew their swords against the recital of an act of parliament." The sword of Ireland has slumbered long and peacefully. It has not seen the light since Limerick and Fontenoy--but it has not rusted. It is as keen, as bright and as true as ever--and if Ireland be compelled in self-defence to draw it--she'll throw away the scabbard--and the blade will leap into the free light and air of God--to blaze meteor-like in the van of a people's death-struggle for Freedom--never to be laid aside till IRELAND BE A NATION." Here, in the language of a daily paper, "the enthusiasm beggared description--the whole audience rose to their feet and the cheering for several minutes was perfectly astounding!"
And we'll back it 'gainst the orange--(terrific shouts)
And we'll back it 'gainst the orange, and we'll raise it o'er the blue--
The color of our fatherland, alone should here be seen--
'Tis the color of our martyred dead, our own immortal green." (Prolonged cheering.)
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GANSEVOORT MELVILLE, Esq., Master in Chancery, now rose, and was received with an enthusiastic applause which plainly evinced how welcome he was to that vast assemblage. He commenced by saying that it was nearly dark and quite late, and after the able efforts of the distinguished gentlemen who had preceded him, he thought the most sensible thing that he could do would be to move an adjournment. (Loud cries of no! no! from the whole meeting.) Shall I go on? (yes! yes!) or shall I not? (Vehement cries of go on! go on! go on!) Then I will go on. (Great cheering.) It is a most gratifying, a most heart cheering sight to behold so vast a multitude congregated together upon such an occasion, and for such an object. The occasion is important and the object elevated. The occasion is important, because this meeting embodies the public sentiment of this great city--the metropolis of the Western World--the pulsating artery of a continent (loud shouts of applause), and must convince the most sceptical that the voting masses here are Repealers, heart and hand. (Tremendous cheers, followed by three rounds of applause.) The object is elevated, for it is no less than the political emancipation of a people (cheers), the restoration of their rights to 8,000,000 of men--8,000,000 with whom we are connected by the closest and the dearest ties--(prodigious cheering)--ties that were cemented by blood upon the battle fields of our own Revolution. (Renewed cheering.) Aye, the bones of Irishmen who fell in our cause lie on every battle field from Bunker Hill to New Orleans, [quoting Daniel Webster:] "and there they will lie forever" (most enthusiastic cheering); and those ties thus formed and cemented have since become dearer and stronger with each succeeding year. (Loud cries of they have! they have!) Who was it that, when he affixed his signature to the noblest state paper that ever emanated from the human brain--the immortal Declaration of Independence--(vehement cheering) evinced his sincerity by putting in hazard a private fortune which was in itself a principality--causing a bystander to say, "There goes a million." It was the Irish signer--Charles Carroll of Carrollton. (A perfect whirlwind of applause.) Who was it that fell--gloriously fell--fell like a hero of the olden time, before the death-dealing battlements of Quebec? It was Montgomery--(terrific cheers)--and Montgomery was an Irishman. (Renewed cheering.) And yonder is his tomb--(here the speaker pointed to St. Paul's church)--and a proud one it is--proud not from its sculptured tablets and its storied marbles--but proud from its associations and ennobled by the heroic spirit whose name it bears. (A burst of applause.)
Such shrines as his are pilgrim shrines--
Shrines to no clime or creed confined;
The Delphian vales, the Palestines,
The Meccas of the mind. (Cheers.)
If Montgomery slept any other sleep than the sleep of death, the hoarse, ocean-like murmur of this mighty multitude would rouse him from his slumbers--would speak to his ear with the tone of an Archangel's trump, summoning him back to life (thunders of applause); and he would be here in our midst--and why? Because this mighty mass of humanity is assembled here to further the cause of Liberty in that green island from whence he was driven by oppression. (Reiterated cheers.) It is held upon the soil for which he poured out his heart's blood, and composed in part of the sons of those with whom he fought and for whom he bled and died. (Vehement and prolonged cheering.) Montgomery was a martyr on American soil to the great cause of human liberty (loud cheers), and remembering this and calling to mind similar instances--WE tell Sir Robert Peel, and we tell him in tones that will reach him, that if he carries into execution his threat of coercion and kindles the fires of civil war in Ireland--that America has gold to lavish--and blood to shed--and martyrs to offer up for the cause of human freedom there." (Universal bursts of applause, mingled with terrific shouts; the whole assemblage was aroused, and the sensation produced defies description.) We regret that want of space and time to write out our notes, will not permit us to follow the speaker as he proceeded from topic to topic, and point to point. We must content ourselves with his closing remarks, which we will give as literally as we can. He said in conclusion--That the cause of Ireland is one and identical with the cause of Freedom throughout the world. (Loud cheers.) And most emphatically is her cause OUR CAUSE. (Enthusiastic and prolonged cheering--cries of "that's the talk!") NOW WE--Irish Repealers and Friends of Ireland here assembled, under a full sense of the responsibility we incur, impelled by a love of right and unutterable scorn of wrong, and sustained by our moral convictions--here pledge ourselves, in the sight of both God and man--each to the other--all to each--and each to all--that come what may--darkness, defeat, despair or desolation--the sun-burst or the cloud--that we will never falter in the support we give her. (Here the speaker was broken in upon with one continuous, thundering shout, which was echoed and re-echoed again and again.) We will aid her, if need be, with our all. We will uphold her to the last. (Shouts of acclamation and waving of hats by the whole multitude.) We will be to old Ireland as true as the hilt to the blade--"as the dial to the sun." (Reiterated cheers.) Our position is taken, and we'll maintain it. Our determination is fixed, and we'll not abandon it. Our cause is glorious, and we'll not disgrace it. (Thunders of applause.) Justice to Ireland is our gathering cry--Justice to Ireland is our object--and Justice to Ireland WE MUST HAVE! Then let all
"Friends of Freedom close your ranks,
Foes of Freedom, FAUGH A BALLAGH!"
The cheering here was such as is seldom heard--overwhelming--terrific--the hearts of the whole immense multitude were in it--and it was long before it died away.
… GANSEVOORT MELVILLE, Esq., sprung to the stand and said--"Mr. Chairman, before you put the question allow me to propose nine cheers for IRELAND, O'CONNELL AND REPEAL;" scarcely were the words uttered when nine such cheers as only such a meeting could give, rent the air like so many thunder claps. As they rolled away through the Park, it seemed as if the stout old trees shook their sturdy branches to them as they passed.-- Certain are we that they never before hearkened to such a deafening acclamation, as that which full ten thousand throats sent up with stunning force for IRELAND, O'CONNELL AND REPEAL….
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"The meeting was then briefly addressed by G. MELVILLE, Esq. and by Mr.BARBER, who spoke upon the general subject...." --New York Tribune, June 15, 1843